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Like most good things in life, my experience at Emeralda Marsh began with a rat (well, 2 rats actually-  thanks, Randy), but that's another story.  This fantastic variety of  habitats, comprising about 6500 acres, is a work in progress by the St. Johns River Water Management District, converting what was once agricultural land back into productive, vibrant wetlands that not only provide a home to huge numbers of resident and migratory birds, but a plethora of other wildlife as well.  In the following pages, I'll try to give you a feel for the flavor of the place, and especially its incredible avifauna.

Since January, 2000,  I have been conducting weekly bird censuses in the range of habitats encompassed by one small area of the Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area, known as Area 3, or the Lake Griffin Flow-Way.  This man-made system of levees, impoundments and pumping systems is designed to remove water from Lake Griffin, circulate it through nearly 2000 acres of marsh and open-water habitats, and eventually return it to the lake in a purer state.   In the process, the nutrients removed stimulate primary productivity in a fascinating variety of aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats.  This primary productivity forms the base of the food web that culminates in the predominant top-level consumers, the birds.

     Let's begin with the habitat.  On the left is a view 
     from the north end of the  flow-way, looking out 
     over the Yale-Griffin Canal.  Water flows into 
     Area 3 from this region .  The bonnet beds in the 
     canal are a good place  to see Purple Gallinules 
     and Limpkins, among other species.  From here, water
     flows through several impoundments separated by levees,
     and ultimately is pumped back into Lake Griffin.  Habitats
     include open water, areas of emergent vegetation, and a
     variety of types of wet and dry marsh, as well as islands
     of oak-palm hammock and corridors of hardwoods along
     some of the levees.


The engineering behind this system is complex and massive.  Huge pumps channel water
between impoundments, and eventually return it to Haines Creek along the south end of the flow-way (below right), and from there it returns to Lake Griffin.

It's probably the rich mosaic of interspersed habitats that occur throughout the system that make it so attractive and exciting to me, as well as to the birds and other wildlife.  To the right and below are a few images of hammock where it meets more open habitats.                  

   In the following pages, I'll show you some of the wildlife I've seen and photographed to date.

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